So far, I’ve only used CreateSpace for my print-on-demand needs, but today I thought I’d check out the new, Amazon KDP print option as well.
To access the KDP print option, you have to be registered with KDP. If you’ve already published your ebook[s] with them, simply log in and click on your Bookshelf. Click the book you want to print and you will see an option to create a paperback for that book:
The next bit is pretty slick. If your book is already available as an ebook, most of the setup information will be inserted automatically [taken from the ebook setup]. The bits that aren’t are fairly self-explanatory. But what if you’re a brand new author thinking of printing a book for the very first time?
Not knowing where to start, I decided to watch some videos provided by KDP. I can only assume the makers of the videos assumed new authors would already know about trim sizes etc., because they skipped a whole heap of stuff to do with the pre-print part of the process.
Next, I decided to check out the two templates offered by KDP. One template only had the formatting instructions, the other had dummy text to make it easier to see what went where. As with the CreateSpace templates, everything is manual with lots of copy-pasting. Meh. A bigger problem I found was with section breaks etc. There are only about 10 example chapters in the template. So what do you do if you’ve got more than 10 chapters in your own book? You can keep adding chapters, of course, but if you accidentally delete the section break [which is not visible] the whole thing falls apart.
Finally, I had a look at the written instructions for the Basics. It’s pretty bare bones and assumes that authors will be familiar with Word processes and formatting, but otherwise they were okay until the section on page numbers. The following is copied straight from the website:
- Go to the first page of your first chapter.
- Depending on whether you want your page numbers in the header or footer, double-click on the header or footer. This will open the Design tab.
- In the “Navigation section,” click Link to Previous. This will prevent page numbers from showing up on your title, copyright, and table of contents pages.
- In the “Header & Footer” section, click Page Number and choose where you want the page numbers to be.
For Steps 3 and 4 to work, the manuscript must already contain a section break separating the chapters from the front matter [Title, Copyright, Table of Contents etc]. I checked back over all the previous instructions to make sure I hadn’t missed something, but no, none of them even mentioned a section break much less instructions on how, and why, to add one.
This is a glaring and costly mistake because, if there is no section break:
- the ‘Link to Previous’ option will be greyed out, i.e. unavailable,
- a page number applied at any point in the manuscript will cause page numbers to be displayed on each and every page…including the front matter.
- any Headers – e.g. Author Name, Book Title etc – will also appear on each and every page…including the front matter.
If you are going to provide instructions for something, those instructions have to be as clear as possible and accurate. My guess is that the instructions conflated the section breaks in the templates with the instructions on doing everything from scratch. Unfortunately, this kind of slip can lead to massive frustration on the part of authors, and a failed project.
A little further down, the instruction for creating a PDF of the Word file suggested authors use the File/Save As option. This is one of the ways of creating a PDF, but it assumes the author will know about file types and how and where to change them. In Word 2016, it’s a lot easier to use the File/Export option which takes you straight there.
Next, I thought I’d check out the cover creator option on KDP. First I watched the video walkthrough. From what I could see, the Cover Creator app. is very similar to the one used by CreateSpace. The video tutorial, however, is more of an overview than a real guide, so I decided to give it a try myself.
The layout and some of the functions are definitely slicker than the Cover Creator app provided by CreateSpace. But. It soon became obvious that KDP’s version is still a beta. The following are the problems I found after just a few minutes of play:
- there are only 11 templates to choose from [CreateSpace provides 30],
- if you choose one of the free, KDP images as the first step in the process, you can ‘start over’ and choose another template, but you can’t go back and choose another picture,
- if you do want to choose another picture, using the Back button on the browser will take you back to the KDP bookshelf, and yes, you have to go through the first page of the setup all over again,
- if you exit via the Cover Creator ‘Close’ button, you exit all the way out of KDP and have to log back in,
- if you decide to use your own image, there is no template that allows for a ‘free’ cover [in the CreateSpace version there are 2]. This is what I mean:
As you can see, my cover image includes interesting fonts and colour choices. When I brought it into Cover Creator, however, I ended up with the default template version plastered over the top. And there was no way I could get rid of it. Horrible. If you are going to use your own cover image, make sure it’s the correct size for the trim size and contains NO WRITING.
Overall? I think the KDP print-on-demand process needs more work. I’ll give it a skip, at least for now.